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Bear Aware

To keep bears wild, what YOU do really matters. It starts with being Bear Aware.

Black bears capture human admiration and interest like few other wildlife species. Virginia is home to a healthy population of black bears – one of our biggest conservation success stories. Black bears are found almost everywhere throughout the Commonwealth, so it is common for people to live, work and play in bear country. It is incredibly important for people to learn the facts about black bears and to know what they can do to prevent conflicts. In this way, we can make sure we keep bears wild and coexist in this beautiful state for generations to come.

Jump to: At Home | At Camp | In Nature

At Home

Bears are attracted to food sources in residential areas. But with some simple steps, you can reduce the chances of bears making repeated visits to your neighborhood or property.

  • Secure your garbage in bear resistant trash cans or store it in a secure building.
  • Keep your grill clean.
  • Remove bird feeders if a bear is in the area.
  • Don’t put meat scraps in your compost pile.
  • Don’t leave pet food outdoors.
  • Make sure your neighbors are following the same recommendations.

After a few failed attempts to find food around homes, bears will usually leave the area in search of natural wild foods. If necessary, VDGIF can help you identify additional attractants that you may have on your property.

At Camp

Your chance of encountering a bear while camping can be drastically reduced by following a few tips:

  • Keep your camp clean.
  • Store your food in bear proof containers, in a vehicle with the windows closed, or suspended from a tree 100 yards from your tent, at least 10 feet off the ground 4 feet out from the trunk.
  • Sleep away from the areas you have cooked or stored your food.
  • Store toiletries with your food. Scents and use of perfume or cologne can attract bears.
  • Store the clothes you wore when preparing food away from camp.

If you hear a bear or other animal outside your tent, make sure it is aware of you by using a firm, monotone
voice. If the bear enters the tent, fight back and yell.

In Nature

In almost all cases, a black bear will detect you and leave the area before being noticed. However, if you do encounter a bear, here are some suggestions:

  • Do not run. Running could prompt the bear to chase. If in a group, stay together and make sure that your dog stays leashed.
  • If the bear hasn’t seen you, calmly leave the area, while making a bit of noise so the bear will not be surprised by you.
  • If the bear has seen you, back away slowly while facing the bear. Speaking softly may also let the bear know you mean no harm.
  • In the unlikely event that a black bear attacks you, fight back. Black bears have been driven away with rocks, sticks and even bare hands.

If you have any additional questions, contact the Wildlife Conflict Helpline at (855) 571-9003.

Learn more about bears in Virginia »